with the upcoming move and packing, i've been thinking about my books lately and this post by lucy finally pushed me to write a little something.
my mom and i have always been avid readers and, for the most part, share a similar taste in literature. she once said something to me that has stayed with me over the years: "there are authors who love people, and authors who think humanity worthless." this is a rather loose translation/paraphrase but you get the idea. it tends to linger in the back of my head and pops up unexpectedly from time to time when i try to come up with reasons for loving or hating a book.
i remember listening to a recent interview with p.d. james and being astounded by how warm and witty she sounded. after all, her books, to me, demonstrate a deep seated misanthropy and i find them uniformly depressing, very well written, yes, but god, so depressing. my beloved dorothy sayers, on the other hand, coloured the same genre with the blush of love and tolerance for our imperfections. perhaps this is why i adore dorothy sayers and have all but given up on p.d. james.
i have just started to read jonathan franzen's freedom and although, like his previous work, this one is fairly well written, well told and reasonably interesting, i have found myself emotionally detached, and let's just say that is not my typical state. it was only when i remembered my mom's idea that i realised that yes, mr. franzen does not like people. he didn't like them in the corrections, and he sure hasn't changed his opinion since.
it seems that most of the books on my shelves, books i am committed to packing up every couple of years and unpacking with matching frequency, are mostly books by people who like people, which makes me question my self-proclaimed misanthropy. perhaps i'm not as misanthropic as i like to think i am (surely that little bit of psychic darkness is a more interesting character trait than constant pollyannic optimism?) or perhaps it's as i've always said: i may hate people but individuals are another story.
of course that is not the only way to categorise a book, and i do believe some authors/books defy categorisation, but overall, most of my favourite authors seem to be in the tolerant, humanity-loving camp (including, imagine that, eleanor h. porter's pollyanna).
i wanted to close by sharing some more of my favourites to illustrate my point, but found myself feeling entirely too exposed. sure, i can talk at length about fecal occult blood tests and syphilis, but i can't bring myself to tell you my favourite authors. go figure.